The Evolution of Physical Therapy through the Eyes of Bob Cairo

Robert (Bob) J. Cairo, PT, MEP, ART Robert (Bob) J. Cairo, PT, MEP, ART

Robert (Bob) J. Cairo, PT, MEP, ART has been a physical therapist for 26 years, witnessing the evolution of the industry. He has observed changes in patients, technology, and education and continues to use these experiences to learn and grow as a physical therapist.

Bob is the clinical director of our Ocean View location, has been a physical therapist with Tidewater Physical Therapy since he started his physical therapy career in 1990. Bob received his Bachelor of Science in physical education with an emphasis in athletic training from the University of Delaware and his Master of Science in Exercise Physiology (MEP) and cardiac rehabilitation from Springfield College in Massachusetts. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Science in physical therapy (PT) from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Additionally, he is a Certified Active Release Technique® provider (ART®). With 26 years of experience in the field, Bob has seen the field of physical therapy evolve before his very eyes.

When speaking of the evolution of physical therapy, one of the biggest areas that Bob notes in the field is with the patients. Because of the increasing amounts of technological and procedural advancements in the health industries, physical therapists are able to treat issues that they never could before. For this reason, the age of patients in need of physical therapy has dramatically increased throughout the years. With this ever-increasing aging population, physical therapists are working with much older patients as the years go by. While it used to be normal to treat patients whose age ranged from 70-75, Bob states that it is now normal to treat patients in their 90s.

While this is great news for the patients and the health industries, it certainly poses a new challenge for physical therapists. The older generation is no longer content in staying sedentary and living an idle life. They want to dance, play tennis, and stay active and it is the job of the physical therapist to aid them in fulfilling this lifestyle. Bob notes that it is great seeing people who want to stay active throughout their lives, and he intends to continue to jump at the challenge of helping this older generation stay active.

As the age of patients increases and the field of physical therapy evolves, it is also important that the physical therapists themselves learn to grow and evolve. For those in the field, Bob suggests to continue to take advanced classes and gain education throughout one’s career. Bob explains that physical therapy has become more and more specialized in recent years; physical therapists now need special certifications to treat various conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and dizziness (vestibular) issues. Bob himself has taken several classes throughout his career, such as Active Release Technique (ART) classes and soft tissue classes and feels that it is imperative to take advanced courses in order to both advance your career and stay current.

Bob also notes several changes in the administrative aspect of the physical therapy field. Throughout the years that Bob has been practicing, he has seen many changes from the insurance companies. It used to be that insurance companies offered patients little to no limitations on their physical therapy treatments. Patients were generally allowed unlimited trips to their physical therapist without their insurance providers interfering. However, there are now many restrictions on treatments due to insurance company policies. At times, patients are forced into certain “diagnostic boxes” which dictates the number of visits the therapists is allowed before deeming this patient “better” and having to discharge from treatment. For example, someone with a broken ankle may only be allowed five or six visits to their physical therapist, but a patient with a total ankle reconstruction may be allowed 15 or 16 visits. In addition to the changes in insurance over the years, Bob also notes changes in paperwork. In more recent years, both patients and physical therapists have had increasing amounts of paperwork to fill out. While Bob remarks that some of this paperwork is extremely vital, much of it is more cumbersome than helpful.

With Bob’s extensive experience in the field of physical therapy, he has two main pieces of advice for anyone looking to further their respective physical therapy career. First, consistently expand on your education by taking advanced classes. Second, improve your manual skills – the more ability you have with your hands, the better you’re going to do in your career.